24 Positive Affirmations for Advent

As much as December is a lovely, glittery, warm time of the year, for many people it’s also a time for stress or hardship. I know as a busy mum, I’m usually the last person I get to treat well. I’m so busy rushing around making sure everyone else has the perfect Christmas that I usually end up neglecting myself. I know that once I hit peak exhaustion, my mental health can start to take a hit.

Sometimes, when things start to get on top of me, I remember that as twee as it sounds, affirmations can help. What I like to do is write down positive affirmations on little pieces of paper or card and pop them in a jar. Each day I pull out a new affirmation, read it and put it in my pocket to look at again when I have a moment later, when I need reminding that I am good enough, or that anything is possible.

24 Positive Affirmations for Advent

Download your free sheet of 24 positive affirmations for Advent here!

They remind me a little of the little scraps of paper you get in fortune cookies, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Whatever you do this Christmas, please do find time to be kind to yourself. Self care is so important, especially when your energy reserves are running low.

24 Positive Affirmations for Advent

  1. Say YES to new adventures
  2. I value myself
  3. Do it for your future self
  4. We rise by lifting others
  5. Good things are coming
  6. Remember you are amazing
  7. Be kind and be kindest to yourself
  8. You are enough
  9. You are entirely up to you
  10. You deserve happiness
  11. Today is going to be a great day
  12. Be present and take a deep breath
  13. You’re doing great
  14. I choose to be happy and love myself today
  15. I believe in myself
  16. Anything is possible
  17. I am grateful for the life I have
  18. I accept myself as I am
  19. Today is a new beginning
  20. Forgive yourself for your mistakes
  21. All of your problems have solutions
  22. My challenges help me grow
  23. I am in control
  24. I will get through today

Download your free sheet of 24 positive affirmations for Advent here!

If you liked this, you might also like these 24 acts of kindness for Advent. Merry Christmas!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

We were invited guests of Christmas at Dunham Massey. All images and opinions are our own.

Spending an evening enjoying a Christmas light trail is something of a tradition now in our family. There’s something lovely about wrapping up warm and going for a walk in the dark, marvelling at the lights together. We went to the first Christmas at Dunham Massey event six years ago, and it’s been one of our favourite trails ever since. We decided it was time to make a return, so this week, we did indeed bundle ourselves up, and headed to Dunham Massey near Altrincham to take in the sights and the lovely festive lights.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

First off, if you’re planning to go, make sure you’ve pre-booked parking, as it saves a lot of faff and bother if you do. Admission is timed, but they’re not super-strict about you being there on the dot, which was great news because we got caught in the rush hour traffic. The trail begins gently from the car park, with two enormous illuminated stags marking the entrance to the social area, with traditional fairground rides and food (try the Greek gyros, they’re lovely). Once your tickets are scanned, you’re free to explore the trail.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

On the night we went, it was raining quite heavily, so despite wearing good stout boots, I was a bit worried the trail might have been slippery in parts. I needn’t have worried, as rubber matting had already been put down in the worst areas and as long as you’re wearing walking boots or wellies, you should be ok.

The start of the trail takes you through a full on sensory experience. There’s a pavilion of lights dangling down, with ambient music playing as you walk through. It’s the kind of thing I could have enjoyed for hours, and my son loved weaving in and out of the lights. Beyond the pavilion, the house itself was illuminated and “DUNHAM MASSEY” is picked out in lights. It was an awesome sight.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

The trail takes you in and around the garden. I won’t spoil the whole trail by describing it all in minute detail, but there are some serious highlights. We thought the first Christmas at Dunham Massey light trail was impressive, but they’ve really, really turned the volume up on the awesomeness.

There were many breath-taking sights, including the Gladioli Tunnel where arches of multicoloured flowers bathe visitors in a myriad of different lights. There’s the incredible Laser Garden and Light a Wish – a garden which sees the heads of fluffy dandelions floating in the night sky. There’s the stunning Fire Garden, the Singing Tree and the Christmas Cathedral, which is as Instagram friendly as it gets. When you exit the gardens to the front of the house, Father Christmas is there to greet you. He’s a fine old Santa, really traditional looking and he’s happy to chat to the little ones too.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Just when you think it’s all over, and it’s time to head home, you walk through the courtyard, turn to go back to the car park and the lake is lit up with giant colour changing waterlilies which shimmer on the water. Just beyond, there’s a dancing fountain, beautifully timed to the Frozen hit, Let it Go. We watched it for several minutes, it was a grand finale to a very grand festive light trail.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Christmas at Dunham Massey is full of seasonal surprises and shimmering reflections that cast light on beautiful silhouettes of majestic trees, all choreographed to a soundtrack of festive favourites. It’s a real sensory treat, and despite the rain, we all felt completely festive after about ten minutes. This was helped by the mulled wine stall, which warmed us up a treat. The food and drink available on site are great. While we drank hot mulled wine, the boy toasted a fancy marshmallow, which was a highlight for him.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

We have been to quite a few Christmas light trails over the years, each different and marvellous in its own way, but this years’ Christmas at Dunham Massey is spectacular, even in the rain. The lights and music have been beautifully curated and around each corner is a new visual treat. There’s a new something to be wowed by at each turn, and all in all, it’s a superb way to kick off the festivities this year!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey 2022

Five facts you didn’t know about this year’s trail:

  • This is the sixth Christmas at Dunham Massey trail
  • There are 1,200 laser beams in the multi-coloured Laser Garden
  • It takes the crew 19 days to put up installations and prepare the trail
  • The site is run on a combination of hydrogenated vegetable oil and grid power
  • The Instagram-friendly Christmas Cathedral is almost 30 metres long

Dunham Massey 2022

Christmas at Dunham Massey – The after-dark illuminated trail through festive gardens is on from 18 November 2022 – 2 January 2023. Tickets are still available. Book your preferred date and time at christmasatdunhammassey.seetickets.com.

Limited availability, therefore early booking is advised. Advanced Admission Tickets From: Adult £22.50, Child £14.50 (Age 3-16). Family £50-£72 (1 or 2 adults + 2 children). Parking £8 or free for NT Members. Must be booked in advance.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Christmas is a time for traditions and one of ours is a trip to see a Christmas show or two. In Manchester we have lots of great theatres within easy reach of our home and they always offer an exciting selection of Christmas productions. There’s something for everyone. Love panto? Go and see Cinderella. Got little ones? Go and see The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin at Waterside Arts. Below are 10 family Christmas shows you can see in and around Manchester this Christmas…

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin, Waterside Arts, Sale, 30th November – 31st December

This is the story of an extraordinary explorer, a curious conjurer and pioneering problem-solver. You’ll find him pottering in his shed; planning his latest mission. He is learning to speak Penguin and hopes that you will too!

When he arrives at the Antarctic will its icy wilderness meet his excited expectations? Will the penguins’ reception be frosty, or will the colony welcome him with open wings?!

With a playful energy and a mix of puppetry, music and song, this show will be a delightful celebration of wild creativity and the joy of individuality. Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

A Christmas Carol, Waterside Arts, Sale, 2nd December

Olivier Award winner, Guy Masterson, veteran of many smash hit solo works such as Under Milk Wood, Animal Farm and Shylock, now presents Dickens’ classic festive fable. Famed for bringing multiple characters to vivid life, Masterson gives us Scrooge, Marley, the Fezziwigs, the Cratchits, Tiny Tim et al in an riveting, performance that will dazzle, enchant, and linger long in the memory. Guaranteed to get you into the Christmas Spirit – in many more ways than one!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Room on the Broom, The Lowry Theatre, 7th December – 8th January

Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ fun-filled adaptation of Room on the Broom, the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

The witch and her cat are travelling on their broomstick when they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog. But this broomstick’s not meant for five and – CRACK – it snaps in two… just as the hungry dragon appears! Read our review here.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Cinderella, Stockport Plaza, 8th December 2022 – 8th January

Well pop on your sparkling glass slippers, jump into your coach and dash along to the Stockport Plaza to find out in the North Wests Premier Family Pantomime – Cinderella!

You’re invited to the Stockport Plaza Pantomime and they guarantee you’ll have a ball! Tickets for the North Wests premier family Pantomime Cinderella are on sale now!….

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Comedysportz Improvised (adults only) Panto, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 9th & 10th December

Heroes, villains, songs and silliness are guaranteed as the gang improvise a brand new pantomime using only your suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. With plenty of quick-witted gags and games, this loving pastiche of panto characters and tropes will be jam-packed with laughs and unexpected delights – oh yes it will! You don’t want to miss this alternative festive treat that the whole family can enjoy.

Every show is different as players craft loving pastiche of panto tropes and characters from audience suggestions and a sprinkling of fairy dust. The performers don’t know their roles beforehand and might even get you involved in the action! This alternative pantomime is totally unscripted and completely unmissable – book your tickets for one of these family Christmas shows now!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, Opera House Manchester, 10th – 31st December

Comedy superstar Jason Manford will lead the cast in The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan in the role of Captain Hook, joined by returning Manchester panto favourite and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Ben Nickless as Smee and musical theatre stars Jessica Croll as Wendy, Samara Casteallo as Tinkerbell and Ross Carpenter as Peter Pan.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

The Adventures of Robin Hood – The 80’s Panto!, Contact Theatre, 10th – 31st December

The Contact Theatre in Manchester present a panto 80’s remix of Robin Hood. It’s a fresh twist on the traditional, packed with an upbeat, sing-along, 80’s panto playlist! eight-freestyle‘s Robin Hood is a story of courage, friendship and bad puns. There’ll be plenty of laughs along the way as Robin joins forces with Maid Marion to thwart the Sheriff of Nottingham’s evil plans to kidnap the young Babes. This is a show that has it all: adventure, action, laughs, music, magic and men with mullets!

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 13th – 22nd January

The town of LeVache has a really BIG problem – a giant lives above them. What’s more, it’s the spring festival and there’s only one cook – the Widow Trot – with the assets to make all the buns sticky.

Find out if her son Jack finally proves himself? Will the independent Jill lead the way? Will Bogey and Flickit stop picking their noses? Or will everything be ruined by Fleshcreep, the slimiest villain of all? If only they had a beloved cow who can dance and save the day…

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

10 Family Christmas Shows in Manchester

Claus – The Musical, The Lowry Theatre, 14th December – 8th January

From the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comes the world premiere of Claus The Musical. Based on the beloved children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, this brand-new musical is as magical as Christmas itself.

With spellbinding songs from Andy Collyer, heart-warming storytelling, enchanting sets, and a whole load of festive fun, discover the story of Claus and how he became a man forever in our hearts, and on Christmas Eve, forever in our skies.

Abandoned as a baby in the magical Forest of Burzee, he is gifted to Necile, a wood nymph, who showers him with love and names him Claus.  With a helping hand from the mystical inhabitants of the forest – Fairies, Knooks and Ryls – she teaches him that kindness is the most important lesson of all, a gift that Claus eventually shares with us, as he embarks on a journey to bring the miracle of Christmas to the whole world.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

Little Penguin’s First Christmas, The Lowry Theatre, 22nd December – 31st December

From the company that brought you the sell-out productions of Snowbabies! and Aleena’s Garden, Little Penguin’s First Christmas is an immersive, festive experience for babies aged 0-36 months and their grown-ups!

Filled with puppetry, original music and sensory delights to stimulate and captivate, this show is a perfect first theatrical experience for your little one.

Join Little Penguin in her winter wonderland as she discovers the magic of her first Christmas.

For more information and to book tickets, visit their website.

If you found this list of family Christmas shows useful, you might also like to read my list of 11 Places to hear Christmas music in Manchester this year.

18 Christmas light trails in and around the North West

Going to see the Christmas lights each December is now something of a family tradition. Bundling ourselves up against the cold; marvelling at the lights and treating ourselves to hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts from a food stall is something we’ve really enjoyed in previous years; and we are looking forward to a Christmas light trails again this year.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that tickets are selling fast to many of the more popular trails. I’ve gathered together a list of some of the Christmas light displays in and around Manchester, Cheshire and the North West this Christmas. Some might be a little drive away, such as Alton Towers, or Sheffield, but I’ve included them anyway.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West (and a bit beyond)

Alton Towers – Enjoy a whole host of fantastical family rides and attractions, show-stopping live entertainment and enchanting Christmas Market. You can even extend the festivities with a truly magical Santa Sleepover! Plus, marvel at the award-winning illuminated trail, Lightopia, returning for 2022 – a seasonal spectacle not to be missed!

BeWILDerwood, Cheshire – Explore brand new areas of BeWILDerwood as you follow The Sparkly Light Trail through the woods. Discover silly snowmen, curious Christmas crackers, a giant Christmas pudding and lots, lots more as you venture through the festivities.

Bolesworth, Cheshire – Bolesworth’s grounds near Chester will again be transformed into a festive wonderland, festooned in seasonal sparkle and yuletide cheer for a month of unforgettable winter magic. Their enchanted Christmas Lights Trail returns for 2022 featuring an all-new route, a spectacular light show incorporating Bolesworth Castle itself and a unique water display on their beautiful lake.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Chester Zoo, The Lanterns – This event has been running for several years now, and it is such a magical evening out visiting the zoo after dark and meeting magical creatures on you travels. Read our review here.

Delamere Forest, Cheshire – Christmas at Delamere Forest is an after-dark illuminated trail with over a million lights and seasonal sounds bringing bundles of festive cheer to the forest. Enjoy a magical time together with your family and friends as you discover glittering tunnels of light and trees drenched in jewel-like colour. Pause at mesmerising flames in the fire garden for a moment of reflection. Wander beneath larger-than-life illuminations and don’t forget to glimpse Father Christmas along the way.

Dunham Massey, Cheshire – This is another family favourite; the gardens are lit up in splendid style at this must-see Christmas event. Read our review here.

Enchanted Winter Walk at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire – Experience their first ever Enchanted Winter Walk. Wrap up warm and enjoy the magic of Quarry Bank at twilight.

Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience – This light trail is available year round, but what a festive treat for a Harry Potter fan! A night-time woodland trail experience filled with magical creatures and wizarding wonders from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. Explore after dark the sounds, lights, and special effects that bring the magic of the Wizarding World to life. Guests will also be able to enjoy a wide range of delicious food and drinks at the village!

Knowsley Safari Park – Enjoy the safari park after dark at their fabulous Christmas time event, your path will be lit with magical lights guiding you through their enchanted trail. Get into the Christmas spirit with a range of festive food; magical music, amazing illuminated animals and some extra special treats!

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Lightopia, Heaton Park – This is another popular and award winning Christmas light trail in North Manchester’s Heaton Park. Embark on a magical journey through the fantasy themed light trail through the parklands. Showcasing bright immersive installations, colourful lasers, and water shows, this is a festive wonderland for all ages.

Magical Woodland, Blakemere, Cheshire – A truly magical start to the Christmas celebrations for all the family. An enchanting event which is open during the evenings in December. This takes place in 15 acres of woodland and incorporates cutting edge lighting and sound to bring a touch of wonder and magic to this stunning location.

Matlock Bath Illuminations, Derbyshire – The 2022 Matlock Bath Illuminations will run every Saturday and Sunday during the 2022 season, which now starts on Saturday 17 September. There will be fireworks finales every Saturday in October.

RHS Bridgewater, Salford – Glow returns to RHS Garden Bridgewater with a new trail full of festive colour and sparkle. New for 2022, weave your way through yew domes festooned with fairy lights. Explore a magical family discovery trail inspired by local folklore and take a selfie with giant, colour-changing stars. Read our review of last year here.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

Sheffield Cathedral – Sheffield Cathedral will once again be transformed by its Christmas lights spectacular, celebrating the wonder and joy of the festive season. This year’s light show brings us to heart of the Christmas story, to ‘The Manger’ and the tiny baby nestling in the hay who would change the world.

Stockeld Park, North Yorkshire – Experience one of the country’s largest and most creative Christmas light trails set in the grounds of the historic Stockeld Park Estate.

Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire – Returning for 2022, the Christmas at Trentham illuminated trail is designed to sprinkle a little Christmas magic, accentuate the flora and fauna and see the stunning historic landscape in a world of light and colour.

Christmas Light trails in and around the North West

Walton Hall Gardens, Warrington – A spectacular, illuminated trail, full of wonder and intrigue, to delight and enthral your senses. As darkness descends, enjoy an enchanting journey, as they weave a captivating light trail through the grounds of Walton Gardens. Immerse yourself in our mesmerising trail, with breath-taking lighting elements and fabulous light play, all set to ambient music. Read our review here.

Winter Illuminations at Yorkshire Wildlife Park – Their annual Winter Illuminations feature over 2,400 metres of illuminated trails filled with giant awe inspiring hand-crafted lanterns.  Explore the illuminated lands of Fairytale Kingdom, Animal Adventures, Under the Sea and much more. This magical night-time adventure sees our walk-through Wildlife Park come alive with an enchanting spectacle of light. This year promises an experience bigger, better and more electrifying than ever before!

If you’re planning on visiting one of the Christmas light trails in the North West, then I suggest you book early. These events just get more popular every year, and with good reason! They really are a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit.

18 Christmas light trails in and around the North West

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

Going to see the Christmas lights each December is something of a family tradition. Bundling ourselves up against the cold; marvelling at the lights and treating ourselves to hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts from a food stall is something we’ve really enjoyed in previous years. This year we bought tickets for Glow at RHS Bridgewater in Salford and we were very excited.

Glow at RHS Bridgewater is a slightly different set up than what you might find at say Dunham Massey; or The Lanterns at Chester Zoo. The new gardens at RHS Bridgewater (which is well worth a visit during daylight hours) is illuminated, showing off the plants and trees beautifully. There aren’t light sculptures or special displays; but from the walled gardens to the lake, all the way round to the Chinese garden, it’s all illuminated.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

You begin the one-way trail in the walled gardens, through the area where the glass houses are, complete with pools and illuminated water ways. There is a light tunnel to walk through (it’s a popular selfie spot too). Beyond there you make you way to the marquee where hot dogs and mulled wine can be bought.

We timed it just right and we were entertained for the duration by a choir singing Christmas carols. The youngest member of our group ran up and put in a request for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which the choir and everyone else sang with gusto. This really put us all in the mood for Christmas.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

Once we’d finished our mulled wine, and the choir had packed up, we headed off towards Ellesmere lake. The trees were all lit up in different colours and once you got to the lake, the reflection of the illuminated trees across shimmered on the water. This was a real highlight for me, it was so beautiful.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

Beyond the lake, we walked through the Chinese garden, over the little bridges and back towards the shop and café.

We were very lucky that although it was a cold night, it was crisp and dry. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Glow at RHS Bridgewater. Some people were perhaps expecting a more interactive experience, but we loved it. We went along with family and everyone from the age of 3 upwards loved the calming lights.

Days Out: Glow at RHS Bridgewater, Salford

I think that’s what made it special for me. Christmas can seem so manic, it’s a whirlwind trying to do things and fit everything in. It was just lovely to spend a few hours walking a safe route with family, chatting along the way and taking in the calming lights. It took some of my pre-Christmas stress down a couple of notches and although it might have lacked some of the pizzazz of other Christmas light trails, we all enjoyed it and we would go back next year.

For more information, or to book, visit the RHS Bridgewater website.

We paid for our tickets in full.

Christmas Recipe: Christmassy Rocky Road

I love baking at Christmas, but sometimes I just want to step away from the oven and make something colourful, a bit silly and something that Will Ferrell’s Elf might fancy for breakfast. This Christmassy rocky road is a great thing to make with kids, it’s all bashing and stirring and waiting patiently (and impatiently) for it to set so it can be cut up and gobbled down greedily.

Rocky road usually has marshmallows in it, but I decided to swap these out for Haribo Christmas Trees to make each slice extra festive. If you want to leave the gummy sweets out and stick to the traditional marshmallows, then just swap them in the recipe.

Christmas Recipe: Christmassy Rocky Road


200g Milk Chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 Tablespoons of golden syrup
135g Unsalted butter
200g gingerbread men
100g Christmas sweets, I used Haribo Christmas Trees
75g Dried Cranberries
60g Smarties or M&Ms
Christmas sprinkles

Line a high sided baking tray with baking parchment. I used a square 20cm tin.

Put the milk chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a glass bowl. Using a bain-marie (put an inch or two of hot water in the pan and place the glass bowl over the top making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl) over a gentle heat. Stir the chocolate, golden syrup and butter until everything has melted together.

While the chocolate mixture is slowly melting, put the gingerbread biscuits into a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin until they’re broken up, but not crumbs. Ideally you want a mixture of chunky pieces and smaller, crumbly bits. Once bashed, tip them into a mixing bowl. Add the marshmallows and raisins and the Smarties or M&Ms and add them to the biscuit mix.

Christmas Recipe: Christmassy Rocky Road

Once the chocolate mixture has melted, take it off the heat and carefully tip the biscuity mix into the chocolate. Stir it well and make sure everything is coated. Then tip it onto your baking tray spread the mixture out and gently press it down with the back of a spoon. It needs to be about 2cm deep as a minimum, but the thicker the better as far as I’m concerned.

Lastly, sprinkle over your Christmas sprinkles and put somewhere cool (or in the fridge) to chill and set for a few hours, preferably overnight if you can wait that long!

If you enjoy regular rocky road, then this Christmas version is so much extra. The gingerbread biscuits really make it extra special, and all the festive treats packed into it make feel like a bar full of festive joy.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try –

Christmas Recipe: Christmassy Rocky Road

Christmas: 12 favourite festive cakes and bakes

I was chatting about baking to a mum in the playground yesterday, we discovered a shared love of fairly unusual continental recipes, the kind Paul and Pru would give to Bake Off contestants to try and baffle them into submission. It got me thinking about some of my favourite things I’ve baked and blogged, so I thought I’d choose 12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes and give them another airing.

I promise you they’re all easy, I lack the patience, time and skill to do anything too fancy and time consuming; but they’re all delicious.

Mincemeat Flapjack

One of the most enduring and classic flavours of Christmas is mincemeat. Mince pies are an undeniable Christmas classic, but I’ve been throwing mincemeat into cakes and vol au vents for a few years now. It’s too good an ingredient just to use in little pies. So I baked a hearty batch of mincemeat flapjack and they all but disappeared in an afternoon. They’re simple, they’re filling and most of all, they’re delicious.

12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes

Lebkuchen Cake 

Traditionally a moreish soft biscuit, I decided to attempt a German Lebkuchen Cake with considerable success. The recipe is easier than it looks to make and the results are truly scrumptious. It’s one of our favourite festive cakes!

12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes

Danish Butter Cookies

Because to me, and other children of the 80’s, Danish Butter Cookies are forever linked to Christmas, it’s at this time of year I tend to make them the most. A batch of cookies neatly wrapped in brown paper, or in a decorative bag or box make a lovely little edible gift for someone.

Christmas Recipe: Danish Butter Biscuits


Traditionally Joulutorttu are made with puff pastry and a special Finnish prune jam. However I made mine with a Christmas preserve, but it does need a good firm set jam. Try plum or prune conserve for authenticity. They look a bit tricky to make, but it’s ready-roll puff pastry and jam and  a bit of arty twisting of the pastry.


Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Slices

I like to make a big batch of these chocolate dipped candied orange slices at Christmas and give little bags of them as presents for people. They’re also a really nice treat to take away on holiday to nibble with a nice glass of good red wine in the evening.

Recipe: Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Slices

Mincemeat Filo Rolls

I do love mince pies, but sadly the pastry doesn’t love me. Instead of the usual shortcrust pastry pies, I make these alternative mince pies, with filo pastry and in the style of a spring roll. These Mincemeat Filo Rolls were really, really lovely.

Easy Christmas Recipe: Mincemeat Filo Rolls

Mulled Cider Jellies

Sometimes, and this is not very often, I mull too much cider and I’ll have some left. Sure, I could heat it up again later, but I fancied making something different with it. I thought I’d make some Mulled Cider Jellies. It turns out they make a really interesting, different and delicious festive dessert. You could make them just as well with apple juice if you’re serving them to children or people who don’t drink alcohol. It’s a very pretty dessert and just a bit different.

Christmas Recipe: Mulled Cider Jellies

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream

This is an incredibly easy dessert, imagine a rich vanilla ice cream topped with Courvoisier soaked festive fruits. It’s utterly delicious, you can whip it up the night before, or make it up to a month ahead of the big day. It is delicious, incredibly simple and uses only four ingredients. I think we’ve found a winner!

12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes

Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

I love a bit of ginger cake and at this time of year it’s a lovely warming bake to make for the family. It’s sticky and spicy and you can dress it up for Christmas, or dress it down for every day cake eating if you prefer. This sticky ginger sponge cake with cinnamon frosting is special enough to serve for an occasion, or you could glitz it up a bit more and serve it as an alternative Christmas cake. It’s about as easy as can be.

Easy Recipe: Sticky Ginger Sponge Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Cranberry and Pomegranate Jelly

Puddings at Christmas time can be a bit on the heavy side. All that booze soaked fruit and extra thick cream can get a bit much; plus if you’re feeding the whole family, Christmas pudding is not a universally popular choice. What is always, always popular is jelly. This is a jelly that everyone in the family can enjoy – cranberry and pomegranate jelly!

Recipe: Cranberry and Pomegranate Jelly

Peppermint Bark Buttons

Homemade treats make for really lovely gifts at Christmas. These Peppermint Bark Buttons are really fun to make and they’re delicious too.

Homemade Gifts: Peppermint Bark Buttons

Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

I originally created this shortbread recipe in 2013 in celebration of the Great British Bake Off; it’s been a favourite ever since. Cinnamon and raisin are a great combination and this lovely crumbly shortbread is a great bake all year round.

Recipe: Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

So that’s my little round up of my 12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes. What are your favourite favourite festive cakes, bakes or makes?

12 of our favourite festive cakes, bakes and makes

Crafts: How to make a Christmas Button Wreath

If you’re looking for a simple but quite beautiful Christmas craft, then this is probably it. These lovely Christmas button wreath decorations are really simple to make and look great hanging on a tree. Not to mention, if you’re making them with the kids, then it’s excellent for their fine motor skills!

A few years ago I made a selection of button Christmas decorations, and each year when I hang them on the tree, I continue to be impressed by them. They’re so simple to make, but look really quite cool.

Crafts: How to make a Christmas Button Wreath

I have billions of buttons, so one quiet afternoon, I decided to try my hand at a simple Christmas button wreath decoration. I thought it would look pretty good on the tree and I was not wrong. They really are simple to make and you can make it as colourful or traditional as you want. Here’s how I made mine.

How to make a Christmas button wreath

You will need:
70-100 buttons in whatever colours you want
A length of craft or jewellery wire
Wire cutters (optional)
Ribbon for a bow and for hanging

Making your Christmas button wreath –

Start off by cutting a length of wire approximately 25cm long. Put a little bend in one end to stop the buttons slipping off.


Next you can start threading the buttons onto the wire. I did this in red-green-white order, but you can use whatever colours in whatever order you want. My Christmas colour palette is very traditional, but yours can be as colourful as you like.

Once you’re threaded your buttons onto the wire and you’re happy with how they look (I tried to put the smaller buttons at each end and the larger ones in the middle), it’s time to tie it off.

Crafts: How to make a Christmas Button Wreath

Take both ends of the wire and twist them together so the buttons can no longer slip off. Twist them together tightly, you may need to snip off the excess wire with your wire cutters. If you can, tuck the ends under and between the buttons so they are out of the way.

Gently pull the wire and buttons into a circle shape to make the wreath, this shouldn’t take very much effort at all.

Crafts: How to make a Christmas Button Wreath

Next take a length of ribbon and tie it around the top of the wreath, tucking in the ends of the twisted wire. Tie the ends of the ribbon with a firm knot to make a hanging loop. Take another length of ribbon and tie a nice bow at the top of the wreath. It should now be ready to hang on your tree.

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Crafts: How to make a Christmas Button Wreath

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Activity + FREE Printable

Christmas is coming, and at this time of year my thoughts turn to what we can do to make the build up to the big day more exciting. Obviously there’s the annual trip to see Father Christmas. We also write him a nice letter with a wish list of things we’d like to find under the tree, and we usually go on a Christmas light trail somewhere. There’s often a visit to a pantomime or other Christmas show, a carol service at our local church and buying and decorating our Christmas tree.

In our house, we love a scavenger hunt, so it made sense for us to make one to do one weekend together. I’ve made it available for you to download and print out for free too, just click the link and print it off!

Download your Christmas Scavenger Hunt Activity Sheet here!

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Activity + FREE Printable

You could make a competition out of it. Whoever scores the most points wins a little prize. It’s a lovely thing to do while you’re out and about with the family. There are 30 things you need to spot and tick off; you might see many of them in a shopping centre, or perhaps a walk around your neighbourhood. If you don’t fancy leaving the house, pop a Christmas film on and see how many you can spot.

Download your FREE Christmas Scavenger Hunt Activity Sheet here!

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Christmas Scavenger Hunt Activity + FREE Printable

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Recipe: Ginger Loaf Cake with Zesty Lime Icing

With my son at home, I’m having to up my snack game. He gets the usual healthy offerings of fresh fruit and yoghurt, but sometimes a slice of cake can be just the motivation he needs to plough through his home learning for the afternoon. This simple ginger loaf cake is a quick and fairly frugal bake which will satisfy even the hungriest little learner.

Ginger Loaf Cake with Zesty Lime Icing

When I bake this, I usually double the recipe and make two. I wrap the second one up for later in the week and the cake is usually even better after a couple of days resting in an airtight tin.

Ginger loaf cake with zesty lime icing

200g self raising flour
200g soft brown sugar
5 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
55g baking margarine, plus extra for greasing
1 medium egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
240mls hot but not boiling water
Lime icing
100g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 a lime
Zest of 1 lime

Ginger Loaf Cake with Zesty Lime Icing

How to make your Ginger Loaf Cake

Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment. I like to use loaf tin liners because they’re much easier.

Put all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, with an electric whisk (or a big spoon if you prefer) combine all the ingredients into a smooth batter. It will look a bit runny, but it’ll be ok once baked, I promise.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until golden brown and the top is springy to the touch. If the top is browning too quickly and you’re worried about it burning, cover the tin with tin foil.

Once your ginger loaf cake is baked, leave it to cool thoroughly, I usually leave mine overnight to make sure it’s properly cool.

Ginger Loaf Cake with Zesty Lime Icing

To ice your cake; zest a lime and put the zest to one side ready to sprinkle over the top. Sift your icing sugar into a bowl, then gradually add in the juice of half a lime, stirring until you get a stiff but spreadable consistency.

Spoon the lime icing over the top of your ginger loaf and then sprinkle the zest over the top. If you’re a neat and tidy person, you might want to leave it to one side for a few hours for the icing to set. Although if you’re greedy like me, then you can just slice it into thick pieces and gobble it down quickly with the icing still dripping.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like to try these Grasmere ginger biscuits or this sticky ginger cake with cinnamon frosting.

Ginger Loaf Cake with Zesty Lime Icing